Days 7-10 of the Huayahuash Circuit: adventure complete…for now

After the soul shaking descent from San Antonio pass, a frigid night sleeping in a cow pasture, and a several hour lost backpack search, the rest of the trek was relatively easy. But, what really comes into focus is the simple fact that you don’t really want it to be easy; you’re in the most powerful looking landscape imaginable, having once-in-a-lifetime experiences on a daily basis, and it’s only fitting that you should be challenged. And so you will be. However, if you choose to go with a reputable guide through the Casa de Guias (“house of guides”)in Huaraz, you will be not face the sort of “where do you think the real trail is” moments that became increasingly frequent after we took a turn off the main circuit on day 6.
I really can’t recommend the Huayahuash Circuit enough in terms of being exposed to the full force of Peru’s beauty. Over 10 days you will almost always have a peak in excess of 18,000ft in your view, with blue ice glacier lurching forward, and magnificent waterfalls pounding down off of that. You will definitely be physically challenged by the climbs and altitude, but never to the point that you question whether it’s worth it; the inspiration of the surrounding landscape is enough to confirm that it is. You’ll also meet locals in the small villages you’ll come across that are incredibly kind – although they will almost certainly ask for some kind of user fee, even when it’s unclear exactly what services you’re receiving in exchange.
Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca are several hours from Cusco and the surrounding attractions (i.e. Machu Picchu) that bring legions of visitors to Peru each year – which clearly has its ups and downs. The downside is that it may not be possible to get over to these amazing mountains and take in the centuries-old Inca sites that have become renowned worldwide for their mysticism and endurance. The upside is that you will experience parts of Peru far removed from the tourist-centric restaurants, souvenir shops and persistent vendors. If you have enough time to make it to the Cordillera Blanca during your stay in Peru there are several shorter treks, including the popular Santa Cruz trek, that are equally beautiful and easier to access. If you don’t have enough time in one trip – well, you’ll just have to make a choice this time…and then start planning your return trip for the next go ‘round. The more time I spent in Peru the more certain I became that there more secret stashes of beauty and adventure than can be experienced in a lifetime, never mind one visit.